Easter And Mary

By Gene Geromel

I was asked to write about the Resurrection and Mary. We don’t often think about Mary’s role in the Resurrection. We can imagine her pain at the foot of the cross. She is not listed as one of the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body and thus, perhaps, was not among the first to learn of the joyful event. She may have been in isolation and mourning, unable to even think. (My sister-in-law was murdered a few years ago, one of thirteen, if you count the shooter. My mother-in-law, who was the strongest woman I have ever met, spent two days in bed in the fetal position. The loss was that devastating.)

As I considered the theme of Mary and the Resurrection, two retreat leaders came to mind. The first was the former Abbot of Three Rivers Benedictine Monastery. Abbot Benedict spoke at length on the practical implications of the Resurrection on our lives. The second was a Jesuit priest who had a great devotion to our Lady and reflected on her meeting with Jesus after the Resurrection.

When I go on retreat, it is with the intention of deepening my relationship with Our Lord and his church. But there was always a secondary goal of what practical exercise could I take back to my parishioners which will help them develop their prayer life.

I tend to be rather prosaic and look at things from a practical point of view, asking how do I apply this to my life or someone else’s? Abbot Benedict talked that day about death and resurrection as being a way of life. Every life change is a death but it can also be a resurrection. This is a simple yet practical concept, and we see it clearly when we look at young people. 

They leave home and it is difficult (their old life has died), then they start a career or college or family and there is a new life. As we age, the same is true. My father was in the Navy from the age of twenty until he was forty. When he left the Navy, he was rather difficult to live with. In fact, it was the only time I saw him raise his hand to my mother. After a while, however, he learned to love civilian life and worked for an insurance company for twenty years. Many people hate retiring and then love it. It’s a death and resurrection.

When we use the term death for a permanent change, we are not minimizing death itself. Today, I spent time with two women who have lost a loved one. One was a mother to a son who died young and the other lost her own mother. One wept and the other thinks about the son she lost nearly every day. There is always an emptiness in the soul when you lose someone.

In my first parish, I walked into the Rectory to see the light blinking on the answering machine. The message was of a woman screaming, distraught because that her son had died. He was in his mid-forties, married and had two children. I drove to his house which was about five miles beyond his mother’s house, and spent a number of hours with wife, children and friends. Mom wasn’t there; I called her as soon as I could after I got back to the Rectory. All were hurting but I came to realize that his mother was the one who had the most difficulty with his death. All of us assume our children will out-live us. 

Now, let us look at our Lady. We get our information about her from two sources. The first is Holy Scripture, the second is Holy Tradition. In scripture we basically see four glimpses into her life. The first is her encounter with the angel Gabriel where she is told that she will conceive a child. She says, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” This is called the ‘fiat’. She turns her life and her will over to God. It is a total trust in God. 

We then see her in Bethlehem where she gives birth to her baby. We see her when Jesus is twelve and Jesus stays behind at the Temple. She doesn’t comprehend, but once again trusts in God even though she doesn’t understand what is happening. There is another scene where she and Joseph’s children show up to bring Jesus home. This is used by some to diminish Mary, but look at the ending – “who are my brothers and sister, but those who do my Father’s will.” Is there anyone who has sought to do the Father’s will more than Mary?

Lastly, we see her at the foot of the cross watching her son mocked and crucified. She watches him die a horrible death. Tradition tells us that she held the lifeless body of the child she bore.
My Jesuit retreat director told me that he believed Mary was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. Scripture says nothing about this, still, she trusted in God’s will all of her life. Wouldn’t Our Lord want her to know that all was well and that her trust in God had been fulfilled? Could he, Jesus, have done anything else? Of course, we don’t know, but it is possible.

A number of years ago, I received a call from a parishioner. Her friend, a Roman Catholic, had just lost her teenage daughter in a car accident. She was desolate. Since her priest was out of town, I visited her. What could I say? How could I console her? I told her to pray to Mary. Our Lady was the only one I could recommend who understood how this mother was feeling. It felt inadequate.

Several weeks ago, I spoke to my parishioner and asked how her friend was. She told me that her friend had moved south but every time she spoke to her on the phone the woman thanked her for sending me and told her how grateful she was that I reminded her of Mary. She understood that she was not alone and that she had someone in heaven with whom she could relate and who could relate to her.

It is popular to say that we are people of the Resurrection. But it is also true to say that we are people of the Cross, death and Resurrection. Mary is our proto-saint. She shows to live amidst joy, pain and sorrow. She gave her will and her life to God the Father, trusting in His providence and mercy.

In Everyman’s Way of the Cross by Clarence Enzler (Ave Maria Press) Christ says at the end:

I told you at the start, my other self,
My life was not complete,
Until I crowned it by my death.
Your ‘way’ is not complete
Unless you crown it by your life.
Accept each moment as it comes to you,
With faith and trust
That all that happens has my mark on it.
A simple fiat, that is all it takes;
A breathing in your heart,
“I will it, Lord.”
So seek me not in far-off places.
I am close at hand.
Your workbench, kitchen,
These are altars
Where you offer love,
And I am with you there.
Go now! Take up your cross
And with your life
Complete your way.

By the intercession of the holy Mother of God, may we be made worthy of the promises of Christ and the resurrection to eternal life.

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O merciful Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, so by His Cross and Passion be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Fr. Gene Geromel is Rector of St. Bartholomew’s, Swartz Creek, Michigan.

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